A story of a disappearance resolved: Mr Buti Mqakelana
Written by khulumani.net
Today is Remembrance Sunday when people who lost their lives in past wars, are remembered and honoured.
It is significant that today we are honouring the life of Mr Buti Mqakelana who disappeared on 2 July 1992 after having attended the funeral of the victims of the Boipatong Massacre.
It has taken twenty years for the family assisted by Khulumani Support Group in Zone 12 Sebokeng to finally resolve the circumstances of his disappearance, thanks to the help of police investigators from the Hillbrow Police Station.
This report (find below) has been provided by Mrs Elizabeth Mokoena and Mr Freedom Ngubonde.
It is the earnest desire of the family to be able to erect a tombstone in memory of Mr Mqakelana.
Khulumani would welcome contributions towards this cost. DONATE HERE.
Khulumani Zone 12 Sebokeng resolve the 20 year old case of the disappearance of Mr Buti Mqakelana of Zone 12 Sebokeng: A report by Mrs Elizabeth Mokoena and Mr Freedom Ngubonde
On 2 July 1992, Mr Buti Solomon Mqakelana, a resident of Zone 12 Extension in Sebokeng in the Sedibeng Municipality, left home to attend the funeral of the victims of the Boipatong Massacre. He was 30 years old and had been active as an ANC member in the struggle.
Mr Mqakelana was never seen again. His widow has been a member of Khulumani in Sebokeng Zone 12 for many years. In the terrible confusion of that time, she did not report the disappearance of her husband to the TRC and so his name does not appear on the TRC list of 477 apartheid-era disappearances cases. It is this list that is receiving priority treatment by the Missing Person’s Task Team of the National Prosecuting Authority.
But Khulumani has been empowering and supporting its members to take forward their own research and information-gathering to try to find missing answers to these thousands of unresolved cases.
It took the Mqakelana family some twenty years to finally get the answers for which they had been searching. The answers came on 13 October 2012 when the Mqakelana family with the support and assistance of the Sebokeng Zone 12 Khulumani members gathered at the Braamfontein Cemetery to hear what police investigators had finally managed to uncover in the search for the remains of Mr Mqakelana.
Mrs Elizabeth Mokoena, chairperson of the Zone 12 Sebokeng Khulumani group and herself a widow of a disappeared ‘ANC activist’ who was apparently abducted from his workplace in Germiston, provided the family with a letter to take to the Department of Home Affairs to apply for a presumption of death certificate. Twenty years had already elapsed since Mr Mqakelana’s disappearance and the family wanted to apply to Mr Mqakelana’s workplace for his pension benefits. Mrs Mokoena’s letter confirmed that the family were members of Khulumani Support Group. The Department called Mrs Mokoena to verify the information she had provided in her letter and they asked the family to pay R70.00 for the issuing of the death certificate
Once the family received the death certificate, they went to the Sebokeng Police Station open a case of a disappearance. The Sebokeng police referred the family to the Hillbrow Police Station to open a case there so that they could begin an investigation. It was these investigators who finally traced what had happened to Mr Mqakelana on 2 July 1992.
The Hillbrow police investigators informed the family that Mr Mqakelana’s body had been found lying with stab wounds alongside the railway line at Langlaagte Station. They said that it appeared that he had been stabbed on the train when he was returning from the funeral of the Boipatong Massacre victims and that his body had been thrown off the train onto the railway tracks. The investigator then told the family that he had discovered that Mr Mqakelana’s body had been taken to the crematorium in the Braamfontein Cemetery where it had been cremated.
The police investigators then organised a meeting with an employee of the Braamfontein Crematorium from that time who had been involved in the cremation of Mr Mqakelana’s body.
And so on 13 October 2012, the family supported by Mrs Mokoena gathered at the Braamfontein Cemetery with the Hillbrow police investigators and the former employee of the crematorium. The group was shown where Mr Mqakelana’s body had been cremated and then they were taken outside to show them where Mr Mqakelana’s ashes had been scattered. This was in an area surrounded by a circle of white stones. The family learned that there was no grave number because Mr Mqakelana’s ashes had been scattered and not buried in the ground.
Having finally had their questions answered, the family returned home to Sebokeng where they organised a traditional ceremony to welcome Mr Mqakelana back home. The ceremony was attended by members of Khulumani, the ANC and the community.
Khulumani local chairperson, Mrs Elizabeth Mokoena, has been told in a dream that ‘Buti needs a tombstone to be erected with his name written on it so that his family have a place where they can visit to communicate with him.’
This is an expectation that Khulumani will strive to fulfil as Khulumani members continue the long struggle of working to resolve the nearly 6,800 cases of the disappeared on its disappearances database. The questions that families affected by disappearances continue to ask include the question, “why did government fail to identify Buti and to inform his family of his death” and why have undertakers buried ‘unknown persons’ seemingly without passing on this information to government and to Khulumani. There are still too many people who do not know where the remains of their loved ones have been buried. As families of the disappeared have explained, living without knowing is like a daily torture.
Khulumani will strive to take forward the empowerment of its members who are affected by enforced disappearances, to put together dossiers of information that can assist in finally solving cases that have been outstanding for twenty or more years.